About Crohn’s & Colitis

Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are life long gastrointestinal disorders that commonly present themselves in children, adolescents and adulthood. 

Collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), the conditions are an emerging global disease, with Australia having one of the highest prevalence in the world. 

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a medical term that describes a group of conditions in which the intestines become inflamed (red and swollen). 

Two major types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine (colon) whereas Crohn’s disease can occur in any part of the intestines. 

What causes IBD

No one knows for certain what causes IBD but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental and immunological factors. 

Exposure to environmental triggers – possibly viruses, bacteria and/or proteins – prompts the immune system to switch on its normal defence mechanism (inflammation) against a foreign substance. 

In most people, this immune response gradually winds down once the foreign substance is destroyed. In some people (possibly those with a genetic susceptibility to IBD), the immune system fails to react to the usual ‘switch off’ signals so the inflammation continues unchecked. 

Prolonged inflammation eventually damages the walls of the gastrointestinal tract and causes the symptoms of IBD.

Symptoms of IBD
 Symptoms of IBD may range from mild to severe but tend to include the following: 

  • abdominal cramps and pain 
  • frequent, watery diarrhoea (may be bloody) 
  • severe urgency to have a bowel movement 
  • fever during active stages of the disease 
  • loss of appetite and weight loss 
  • tiredness and fatigue 
  • anaemia (due to blood loss) 

Treatment of IBD

IBD cannot be cured as yet but it can be managed effectively, especially with the use of medications to control the abnormal inflammatory response.  Controlling inflammation allows the intestinal tissues to heal and relieves the symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Once symptoms are under control, continued use of medications helps to reduce the frequency of flare-ups and maintain remission. 

Always consult your healthcare professional should you have concerns relating to IBD 

For further information please visit: 

www.crohnsandcolitis.com.au 

www.healthdirect.gov.au/crohns-disease 

www.gesa.org.au/resources/patients/inflammatory-bowel-disease/